Talk on Canon at Clearview Church

In addition to the podcast, while I was at Clearview Church, I spoke for their “Digging Deep” series on the topic of “Why Does our (Protestant) Bible have the Books it Does?” Here, I begin with the table of contents of our modern Protestant and Roman Catholic Bibles and briefly trace the histories of these canons through the 16th century to the patristic period and to the earlier period of the late second temple period, talking in less certain categories about a canon in this earliest phase and more about sanctity and popularity of individual books.

The whole talk is about an hour and fifteen minutes and it includes the slides I used for the presentation. If you are interested in how Protestants and Roman Catholics came to have their respective bibles, then have a look.

6 thoughts on “Talk on Canon at Clearview Church

    1. Hi Tim, thanks for this question about a point in the talk that couldn’t receive as much attention as I would have liked to have given it. I’m away from my desk but off the top of my head Albert Sundberg, Geoffrey Mark Hahneman (see his full monograph on the subject), and most recently in NovT 2018, Claire Rothschild have all argued for a fourth century date for the MF. I can only direct you to the discussion of the issues and the literature in The Biblical Canon Lists book for now. I still think there are really good reasons for the late 2nd century date or the early 3rd century date, but my point in the talk was that we need to be careful about how we appeal to MF because there are other interpretations of this evidence besides the one we typically read about.

      Does this make sense? Thanks again for the question.

      1. JM,
        Thanks for the pointers to the others who have dated the fragment late. I did understand your point and fully concur; we should be aware of and truthful when presenting evidence.
        On a second issue that we have interacted before; you have used scripture to describe works like the Shepherd, but in this talk you also used inspired. Do you mean to convey that these works were inspired by the Spirit, yet in spite of inspiration were not canonical or that some groups considered them inspired, but were not since they did not end up as part of the canon? Maybe something different?
        I have found your posts and the last 2 videos both enlightening and though-provoking.
        I appreciate you!

      2. Tim, thank you for your kind remarks and this great question. Inspiration as a criterion for canon is a big issue over which is some disagreement. Back in February on the ETC blog I posted this:

        Let me know what you think. But generally here inspiration seemed only to be a necessary condition for canon, not a sufficient one for early Christian views on the matter. Blessings, John

  1. This is a very interesting study. I often wonder whether we can say the Canon is closed, and on what grounds? The Catholic Church apparently closed the Canon at the Council of Trent, but this seemed arbitrary, and we might wonder if it could ever be re-opened. It has been said, somewhat in jest, that if we ever found the “Q-Source” we’d need to re-evaluate this question.

    Initially, of course, all Christians take the Canon decided upon by Pope Damasus I in AD 384 to be legitimate. Exceptions arise with the Ethiopian and Eritrean Tewahedo Orthodox Churches – who consider Enoch and Jubilees to be Canonical, but this is unusual. It doesn’t seem to be significant to Ecumenical dialogue, and I do wonder how far these books influence their Theology. The Catholic Church now seems to consider these Churches to be very close to achieving “Full Communion”, so perhaps this effectively accords some value to Enoch and Jubilees. The Kebra Nagast seems to be more problematic, but its status is definitively secondary within the Tewahedo Churches; maybe akin to the Talmud or the Zohar for Judaism.

    More interesting, I think, is the development prior to AD 384. The Shepherd of Hermas, the Letter to Barnabas, 1 Clement and 2 Clement; all these texts had a quasi-Canonical status. This is to say nothing of the vexed issue around the Apocalypse.

    I wonder if this necessities a more fluid view of Divine inspiration? Might we argue that texts can be inspired, to a point, even if not Canonical – i.e. not appropriate for public worship? It seems that various extra-Canonical texts have been largely ignored until recently – simply because they weren’t considered fully Canonical. This seems to betray their value, especially when Church Fathers are keen to cite them. Any thoughts on the above?

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